The tourist who paid thousands of pounds to kill one of Zimbabwe’s most cherished lions has been identified as an American dentist.
Authorities in Zimbabwe say Walter Palmer, from Minneapolis, paid a $55,000 (£35,000) bribe to wildlife guides to allow him to shoot the lion, named Cecil, with a crossbow.
The 13-year-old animal was found beheaded and skinned near the Hwange National Park, where he was beloved by tourists and local residents alike.
Dr Palmer, who is described as an “experienced general and cosmetic dentist” on his practice’s website, is married with two children.
His professional biography describes his enjoyment of “outdoor activities”, adding: “Anything allowing him to stay active and observe and photograph wildlife is where you will find Dr Palmer when he is not in the office.”
The dentist’s Facebook page was being inundated with angry comments and threats today as he was identified as Cecil’s killer.
“Nothing in this world would give me greater pleasure than to see your head mounted on a wall, your carcass defiled, degraded and paraded as you did to Cecil and near countless other animals,” one person wrote.
Johnny Rodrigues, chairman for Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, identified Mr Palmer to The Independent and said anyone convicted of involvement in the illegal hunt could face up to 10 years in prison.
He added: “The head – his trophy – has been impounded and confiscated as evidence for the court in Victoria Falls”.
Mr Rodrigues had previously described Cecil as “one of the most beautiful animals to look at” and said he “never bothered anybody”.
Zimbabwe, like many African countries, is battling to curb illegal hunting and poaching threatening its endangered wildlife and conservationists fear Cecil’s death will have a knock-on effect.
The lion’s cubs could die as other male lions take his place in the pride and kill the lionesses’ offspring in to encourage them to mate.
Mr Palmer and his accomplices are believed to have lured Cecil out of the protection of the national park using bait and shot him with the bow – a silent weapon increasingly used by hunters trying to evade arrest.
But the arrow did not kill the lion immediately. Tracking data from his GPS collar linked to researchers at Oxford University showed he was followed for 40 hours before being shot dead with a rifle.
The Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association confirmed in a Facebook post last week that the hunter in charge of the safari was one of its members and had been suspended.
The most controversial animal killings
The most controversial animal killings
1/6 Cincinnati Zoo worker shots and kills Harambe, the 17-year-old gorilla
Harambe, a 17-year-old gorilla was shot and killed by a Cincinnati Zoo worker after a three-year-old boy climbed into a gorilla enclosure and was grabbed and dragged by Harambe. The incident was recorded on video and received broad international coverage and commentary, including controversy over the choice to kill Harambe. A number of primatologists and conservationists wrote later that the zoo had no other choice under the circumstances, and that it highlighted the danger of zoo animals in close proximity to humans and the need for better standards of care
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
2/6 Walt Palmer (left), from Minnesota, who killed Cecil, the Zimbabwean lion (pictured here with another lion shot in Africa)
Walter James Palmer has been named by Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force as the shooter of Cecil, a 13-year-old prized lion. He is now wanted by Zimbabwe officials on poaching charges. The lion was protected and the subject of a decade long study by the Wildlife Unit of Oxford University in the UK. He was outfitted with a GPS collar and was killed in Hwange National Park. The Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority and the Safari Operators Association said that two men were charged with poaching in connection to Mr Palmer
3/6 Kendall Jones hunting images
Kendall Jones, a 19-year-old Texas Tech university student, has provoked worldwide fury after posting pictures of herself smiling next to animals she hunted, including a lion, rhinoceros, antelope, leopard, elephant, zebra and hippopotamus
4/6 Rebecca Francis hunting images
Rebecca Francis, a huntress who has killed dozens of wild animals has been sent death wishes by furious social media users after a picture showing her lying down next to a dead giraffe was circulated. Rebecca Francis has a website and Facebook page dedicated to the animals she has killed in hunts across Africa and America. Francis, a prolific hunter who has also co-hosted the television show Eye of the Hunter, regularly posts pictures of herself posing next to dead bears, giraffes, buffaloes and zebras, among other animals. She uses a bow and arrow to kill her prey
5/6 The slaughter of Marius, an 18-month-old healthy giraffe in Copenhagen Zoo
Copenhagen Zoo made the controversial decision to euthanise a healthy giraffe named Marius, which was later dissected and fed to lions as visitors watched. The slaughter sparked a furious backlash from social media users and zoo staff have received death threats by phone and email. Soon after the incident, Copenhagen Zoo faced an international outcry once again after four healthy lions were put down
6/6 Swiss Dählhölzli zoo kills healthy brown bear cub
A Switzerland zoo faced heavy criticism from animal rights groups, after keepers put down a healthy brown bear cub to spare it from being bullied by its dominant male father. The 360 kg male bear Misha had already killed one of his 11-week old cubs in public and was bullying the second, staff at the zoo said, because he was jealous of the attention the cubs were receiving from their mother, Masha. Both adult brown bears had been donated to Bern’s Dählhölzli zoo in 2009. Campaigners condemned staff there for not separating the cubs, who are being referred to as Baby Bear Two and Baby Bear Three, and their mother from Misha after their birth in January
“ZPHGA reiterates it will not tolerate any illegal hunting or any unethical practices by any of its members and their staff,” a statement said.
A guide from local firm Bushman Safaris and the owner of the land where Cecil died have been arrested over the killing on 6 July.
Hunter Theo Bronchorst and landowner Honest Trymore Ndlovu were due to face illegal hunting charges in a court in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWM) said.
On its Facebook page, Bushman Safaris describes itself as a family business offering “top quality hunts with maximum results”, specialising in killing lepoards.
“Hunters do far more for conservation of our wildlife than anti-hunters whom probably almost 100% have never even seen or been around our wildlife,” a post said earlier this year.
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